Q: What has Rachel done to support the Alex since she was first elected?

Since she was elected as Redditch’s MP last June, Rachel’s number one priority continues to be supporting the Alex and making sure residents get the first-class services they deserve.

Within one month of being elected, Rachel met with the then Health Minister, Philip Dunne, the Chair & Clinical Lead of the Redditch & Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group, the Chief Executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Michelle McKay, and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt.

In her maiden speech, Rachel hammered home her commitment to support the Alex. Rachel also used her first opportunity to ask a question in the House of Commons to press the Health & Social Care Secretary on staff recruitment at the Alex.

Rachel has also continuously lobbied the Government on the £29million capital investment promised to the Acute Trust. This significant amount of money will see the Worcestershire Royal Hospital getting upgraded maternity wards, theatres and children’s services, while the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch will get extra money to pay for improvements to the elective care centre, endoscopy, children’s outpatients and an upgrade in theatres.

Thanks to Rachel’s lobbying efforts, the first tranche of the £29million has been made available to the Acute Trust. This £3million will allow the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust to construct a link bridge between the main Worcestershire Royal and the second floor of the Aconbury East building. Rachel continues to put pressure on the Acute Trust to submit their final business case for the remaining £29million to the Department for Health and Social Care as soon as possible.

Rachel has also launched a parliamentary petition to push forward the implementation of the GP-led Urgent Care Centre that was promised to us in Redditch as part of the consultation into Acute services in Worcestershire which concluded last year. There has already been an incredible amount of support from residents who all backing Rachel’s petition.

Q: Will the Acute Trust see the £29m promised investment?

A: Yes. The money is for the Worcestershire Actute Hospitals Trust (WAHT) from NHS England. £3million to fund work to improve patient flow at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital has already been approved by the Department of Health and Social Care. The first tranche of funding from the £29million will allow the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust to construct a link bridge between the main Worcestershire Royal and the second floor of the Aconbury East building. Planning is at an advanced stage and an anticipated eight-month build programme will begin in April. The Trust has also submitted a bid for a further £8million advance from the capital funding pot. This will help to increase acute bed capacity by 40 at the Worcestershire Royal in time for next Winter. Rachel is lobbying the Department and Health Ministers to approve the Trust’s bid as soon as possible.

Q: Will the £29m investment bring back maternity and children’s services to the Alex?

A: No. The £29m is a capital grant to be spent across Worcestershire, of which the Alex will be getting its fair share to invest in upgraded operating theatres for example. Some of the money will also be spent on improving the car parking situation at Worcestershire Royal.

Q: Why can’t maternity come back to the Alex?

Although this is a complex question, we will attempt to answer it in brief here. The Consultation Document wants to confirm that maternity services will remain at Worcestershire Royal after their emergency transfer from the Alex. Since this move, emergency C-section rates have dropped from 32.6% to under 25%, meaning fewer women being rushed down corridors and more relaxed births.

The fact is, there wasn’t the staff at the Alex to continue to provide a safe service. There was a shortage of consultants and neo-natal nurses. Once the situation had reached the point where there wasn’t enough of these staff to cover a rota the services had to be moved to somewhere where there was the staff to cover it.

Consultants and specialists neo-natal nurses want to work at Worcestershire Royal – a busier, more modern hospital with an interesting case load that is helpful to their careers, keeps their skills sharp and provides a safer experience by having more of the high-skilled staff available when needed.

We have been told by the CCG that the birth rate in Redditch is not high enough to sustain a birthing unit any more. This is partially because of the greater drive towards home-based births, but also families having fewer children since the hospital was built.  The current birth rate is around 250 births, and would need to be somewhere in the region of 500 births (according to the CCG) in order to sustain a birthing unit in Redditch. There is no town in the UK the same size as Redditch which has its own maternity unit. Rachel has committed in her 12 point plan to campaign for services to return to the Alex should the population increase by 10%, which should in turn mean a higher birth rate.

Q: Why can’t children’s services come back to the Alex?

In a similar situation to maternity services, there just isn’t the staff and demand locally for a full children’s ward in Redditch. The specialist staff are based in Worcestershire Royal where the best care is available. But there are some myths that need to be clarified.

In an emergency a sick child can go to the Alex where they will be stabilised before transfer to the Worcestershire Royal for an overnight stay if necessary.

It is only the overnight stay that would have to take place at Worcestershire Royal – all other treatment would be carried out at the Alex where possible.

The children’s ward at Worcestershire Royal is fantastic, with expert staff and modern facilities. We do accept that it can be difficult for those who don’t drive to get to Worcestershire Royal and that this may be stressful if a child has to stay overnight there. Residents living in Redditch can access the Community Transport scheme. Residents will need to phone 0300 323 9965 to book a service which is open Monday to Friday 9am – 4pm.

Q: Is the hospital in terminal decline?

No, absolutely not. Of course, some services have been moved to the Worcestershire Royal, but the Acute Trust is clearly committed to the future of the Alex as demonstrated by the investment planned for our hospital. The Alex will be getting its fair share of the £29million capital funding which will be spent on refurbishing and modernising the Alex’s operating theatres, as well as improvements to endoscopy facilities. Our hospital will also be getting an Urgent Care Centre which I am campaigning hard for to make sure it is in place for next winter.

Q: What does ‘special measures’ mean?

‘Special measures’ are recommended by the CQC and include a range of interventions NHS Improvement can take to help foundation trusts, NHS trusts and independent providers deliver improvements. They do this when a hospital or provider isn’t providing the quality of care patients need or deserve, and where there is concern that the existing management cannot fix the problems on their own. ‘Special measures’ involve an intensive package of support to help trusts improve their performance and the care they deliver. The Trust has been in ‘special measures’ since November 2015.

Q: Should I wait for my operation or treatment until the hospital is out of special measures?

No. Patients should not be put off seeking advice or receiving treatment because of this. Patients should continue to attend our hospitals for appointments, operations and treatment as planned.

Q: What actually happens to hospitals and trusts that are subject to special measures?

There are a range of actions that can be taken under special measures:

1. A hospital or foundation trust that is high-performing in the relevant areas can partner with the under-performing trust. This partner will help the hospital and its health services to improve.

2. An action plan is written by the trust in discussion with the regulator and local commissioners. It contains details of what improvements are needed and the progress that has been made. Trusts regularly update it with details of the progress they’ve made.

3. An improvement director is appointed to monitor the trust’s progress as it works to achieve the specific steps set out in the action plan.

Q: Why has this situation come about?

It is impossible to point to one reason, but for some time the trust has had problems recruiting staff, especially at senior level and has had to rely on interim and agency staff. A permanent leadership team, including a new Chairman and Chief Executive, is now in place. They are building on and strengthening the Trust’s improvement plan and the leadership team and staff are committed to working to make the improvements recommended by the CQC, and ensure that all our services deliver high quality care to patients all the time.

Q: What is the Trust doing to improve the situation?

The answer to this question has been taken from the Trust’s website. It says:

We are building on and strengthening our improvement plan. Everyone across the organisation is focused on making the changes in quality for our patients. In particular, we are working with staff to help us address the issues the Care Quality Commission has raised, and making quality improvement part of daily business for all our staff.

We are determined to move forward with pace and focus so we can consistently deliver high quality standards for patients across all our services for example we have:

  • Updated our plans for dealing with significant peaks in the number of patients we see, particularly so patients have a better experience at busier times
  • Updated our policy and the way we ensure male and female patients are treated in separate areas when clinically appropriate to do so, making sure we focus on their privacy and dignity
  • Improved our systems and processes to make sure medicines are stored correctly and all staff receive full training around administering medicines safely
  • Ensured we learn from mistakes when they do occur; with robust systems in place for reporting incidents, and improved induction and training for staff – as per best practice in other hospitals
  • Ensured staff have received appropriate levels of training to care for the specific needs of children
  • Ensured patients with fractured hips quickly receive the appropriate surgical treatment for their condition in our theatres which improves their experience and their outcomes from surgery
  • Introduced a system for senior nurses when they lead audits and reviews on professional standards, to make sure these are consistent across the Trust
  • Launched a Trust wide dementia strategy to support staff to better care for the needs of patients with dementia
  • Ensured patients with urgent gynecological problems are fast tracked so they are seen quickly and offered the appropriate treatment as soon as possible for their condition
  • Implemented new processes to our electronic systems, working with the Regional Safeguarding Board to ensure appropriate levels of safeguarding is in place for children in our care.